Duneland Athletic Conference
Runners to watch: Kevin Kenney, Sr.; Alex Genetski, Jr.; Mitch Wilborn, Jr.; Tyler Vore, Sr.; Jonah Noel, Sr.
Outlook: The Trojans are older, but have only three runners with semistate experience. Noel is back after missing much of last season with an injury. "Last year, we got a little ahead of ourselves," coach Tim Ray said. "This year, more than ever, we have to take it a week at a time."
Runners to watch: Tyler Gray, Sr.; Jacob Langbehn, Jr.; Ryan Kepshire, So.; Zane Celmer, Sr.; Matt Mosak, So.
Outlook: Eight of the top 12 runners return for the defending sectional and regional champs, led by Merrillville transfer Tyler Gray as their new No. 1. C.P. was eighth at semistate and missed qualifying for state by two points.
Runners to watch: Tyler Kramer-Stephens, So.; Zach Hupp, So.; Cole Easterday, So.; Steven Sweeney, So.; Casey Garvey, So.
Outlook: Long-time assistant Jeff Rhody, a 1988 Portage grad, takes over for Rudy Skorupa. The 31-man squad features only four seniors. "Thankfully, Rudy didn't leave the cupboard bare. He left it fully stocked," Rhody said.
Runners to watch: Anthony Didion, Sr.; Sam Miller, So.; Braden Griffin, So.; Anthony Raymond, Sr.; Dakota Merkel, Fr.
Outlook: Didion qualified for state, but the team fell 21 points short of a berth. Merkel should fill out a top five that coach Tim Beres expects to be in the mix to go to Terre Haute along with Didion.
Runners to watch: Conor Hill, Sr.; Michael Johnson, Jr.; Miguel Tapica, Jr.
Outlook: The Pirates lost just one senior but numbers are down. "Kids found jobs. That's about it," coach Mike Hoffman said.
Runners to watch: Logan Doperalski, Jr.; Alejandro Miller, Jr;. Luke Latchford, Sr.; Gaven Gresham, Sr.; Charles Krueger, Sr.
Outlook: The Wolves have six of their top seven still around, but still lack the front-end runner to compete in the DAC. "We should be a little quicker overall, but we don't have a hammer, the luxury of that low card," coach Mike Liss said.
Runners to watch: Lucas Sullivan, Sr.; Dustin Balboa, Sr.; David Clegg, Sr.; Jacob Theilbar, Sr.; Tommy Martin, So.
Outlook: After three straight disappointments, the deep, senior-laden Indians hope to return to semistate and leave happy this time. "We made some positive changes, just going about doing the little things, and we're hoping to take the next step," coach Tom Erickson said. "If their brains are on right, it could be a really special year."
Runners to watch: Ari Coulopoulos, Sr.; Andrew Jankowski, Sr.; Kevin Hickey, Sr.; Corey Alfredson, Sr.
Outlook: Coulopoulos (15th at state) is the sole holdover from the team that took third at state, but don't shed any tears for the Vikings, who have a hungry group anxious to have their names called. "They've been waiting in the wings a long time, to the point where they were even angry at not getting a chance," coach Mike Prow said. "They're all on a mission. They really want to show everybody how good they can be. Per man, they've put in more miles than they ever have."
Greater South Shore Conference
Runners to watch: Sal Cordova, Sr.; Nick Anglin, Sr.; Cody Porter, Sr.; Justin Figuroa, Sr.; Jake Casko, Jr.
Outlook: Cordova is in his third season as a standout. "I think he'll make it to the New Prairie Semistate and then we'll see what happens," coach Karl Repay said.
Runners to watch: Andrew Huff, Sr.; Danny Hurtado, Jr.; A.J. Ashlock, So.; James Spikes, Fr.; Lamberto Garcia, Jr.
Outlook: Huff was second team all-conference in his first season of cross country and has steadily improved.
Runners to watch: Nick Zack, Jr.; Mike York, Jr.; Mitch Olthoff, Jr.; Brandon Davis, Jr.
Outlook: Regional qualifier Zack and the much improved York are a solid 1-2 punch on a squad lacking numbers.
Runners to watch: Dwayne Haden, Sr.; Carlos Luna, Sr.; Austin Cintron, So.; Grant Coslet, Fr.; Tyler Ramirez, Sr.
Outlook: Haden is a basketball standout in his first season of running and has looked impressive, as has four-year letterman Luna.
Runners to watch: Jesse Anderson, Sr.; Leo Espino, Jr.; Miguel Espino, Fr.; Jacob Kessler, Fr.; Luis Zavala, Jr.
Outlook: The Spartans qualified for regionals last year, are now deeper, and have a new No. 1 in Leo Espino.
Runners to watch: Chris Ramos, So.; Jacob Miller, Sr.; Tyler Purtee, Fr.; Bradley Brooks, Jr.
Outlook: An improved Ramos, at No.1, will lead the Ingots' first full boys squad in two years.
Runners to watch: Joel O'Shea, So; Alex Nader, Jr.; James Mills, Sr.; Michael Bodnar, Sr.; Davey Sokol, Sr.
Outlook: The three-time GSSC defending champion Bearcats return a core group that reached the semistate, paced by O'Shea, a state qualifier. Coach Louie Guillen looks for a fifth man to close the gap. "I compared us to Florida Gulf Coast last year, the new kid who wasn't supposed to be there," Guillen said. "We're looking to move past that level. We know what it takes to be there. We expect to be there and we're looking for more."
Runners to watch: Austin Loehman, Jr.; Kevin Lema, Sr.; Houston Shimala, Sr.; Adam Cuculich, Sr.
Outlook: New coach Allison Buell leads a squad featuring five freshmen and three seniors. Loehman placed 12th at last year's conference meet.
Great Lakes Athletic Conference
Runners to watch: Alex Figueroa, Jr.; Brandon Diego, Sr.; Arturo Ruiz, Sr.; Salvador Espinoza, Sr.
Outlook: The Pioneers hope to field a full squad for scoring purposes.
Runners to watch: Vinny Valadez, Sr.; Zach Schreiber, Sr.; Kaven Kolb, Sr.; Ben Terpin, So.
Outlook: All-conference selection Schreiber returns to lead the Gladiators.
Runners to watch: Johnny Flores, Sr.; E'Monta Coleman, Jr.; Sean Lanier, Sr.; David Hardy, So.; Christian Silva, Jr.
Outlook: New coach Larry Moore Jr. hopes to challenge Morton for the conference title but will need more bodies when school begins. The versatile Coleman may play football as well.
Runners to watch: Manuel Lara, Sr.; Justin Lara, Jr.; Gerardo Montoya, Sr.; Isaiah Walker, Sr.
Outlook: Coach Annie Maksimovic returns her top six runners from last year's GLAC championship team, led by the Lara brothers.
Northwest Crossroads Conference
Runners to watch: Justin Anderson, Sr.; Danny Kukla, Jr.; Zach McCrea, Sr.; Christian Germonprez, Sr.; Erik Shive, Sr.
Outlook: Coach Rick Torres' squad lacks tournament experience with seven freshmen on the 20-man roster.
Runners to watch: Adrian Ruiz, Sr.; Kyle Pfister, Jr.; Nolan O'Donnell, Jr.; Mike Kristie, So.; Adrian Chavez, Jr.
Outlook: Coach Carlos Aburto lost eight seniors. "They took most of the (team) awards," he said. Pfister is vying for the No. 1 spot this time around.
Runners to watch: Brent Dunn, Sr.; John Petroskey, Sr.; Alek Seeley, Sr.; Collins Allen, Jr.; Jacy Leon, So.
Outlook: The Brickies return four of their top seven from last year's team that placed 19th at state with Dunn (63rd), Allen (123rd), Seeley (162nd) and Leon (191st) and will be shooting for a third consecutive appearance.
Runners to watch: Bruce Gawronski, Jr.; Travis Conley, Sr.; Jacob Stemper, Jr.; Isaac Tillema, So.; Mike Nava, Sr.
Outlook: Coach Tim Adams returns his top seven individuals, all of them regional qualifiers, and will have Conley available after missing 2012 with an injury.
Runners to watch: Brian Blaylock, Sr.; Ethan Huseman, Jr.; Matt Wilson, So.; Luke Rudzinski, Sr.; Matt Matthias, Sr.
Outlook: Blaylock (62nd) and Huseman (170th) helped lead Lowell to its first state appearance, a 16th-place showing. "This year, we're inexperienced. But man, we've got great numbers," coach Jake Rakoczy said of his 30 runners.
Runners to watch: Tom Bolanowski, Sr.; Ryan Kritzer, Jr.; Emmanuel Lopez, Jr.; Theo Burgwald, So.; Scott Farley, Jr.
Outlook: Coach Aaron Brown's squad missed qualifying for state by one point at New Prairie while Bolanowski missed by one place. The Mustangs return five of their top seven individuals and have just two seniors.
Runners to watch: Richard Wash, Sr.; Shawn Blanchard, Fr.; Keontae Bridges, Sr.
Outlook: Basketball coach Melvin Yancey has taken over for Charles Jones and you know what that means. "All of them (will run) and I'm very serious," he said of his players.
Runners to watch: Alex Buggs, Sr.; LaDontez Tobert, Sr.; Billy Skinner, Sr.; Wesley Trout, So.; JaJuan Childs, Jr.
Outlook: New coach Zac Williams, a 1993 Lew Wallace grad, will also handle boys track as well.
Runners to watch: Ja'Rae Glover, Sr.; Marlon Northern, Jr.; Tremaine Grubbs, Sr.; Darontae Buggs, Jr.; Marcus Carter, Sr.
Outlook: Coach Ronnie Bond returns five all-conference runners who were regional qualifiers.
Porter County Conference
Runner to watch: Jon Hogg, Sr.
Outlook: Hogg was a semistate qualifier last season.
Runners to watch: Ryan Witt, Sr.; Scott Crawley, Fr.; Daniel Clemens, So.; Erik Brebner, Jr.
Outlook: If the injury-plagued Witt can stay healthy, it could mean big things for him and the Hawks. "He's looking really good," coach Mike DeFries said. "We're really optimistic." Crawley heads a talented freshman trio that will bolster the Hawks' depth. DeFries hopes to challenge for the PCC title and vie for a regional berth.
Runners to watch: Mike Ferrell, Sr.; Grant Hamstra, So.; Connor Gustafson, So.
Outlook: The Mustangs are razor thin with just five runners, though Ferrell and Hamstra comprise a solid 1-2.
Runners to watch: Nate Rhodes, Sr.; Cody Mathis, Sr.; Bobby Claypool, Sr.
Outlook: LaCrosse returns three of its top five from a regional qualifier. Brian McMahan hopes to remain in the top half of the conference and eke out another regional berth. Rhodes, a regional qualifier, is among the PCC's best. "Nate's got a lot bigger goals," McMahan said. "He's never worked this hard."
Runners to watch: Ben Savage, So.; Logan Redmon, Jr.; Chris Dupre, Sr.; Evan Morrisroe, Sr.; Alex Scott, So.
Outlook: All-stater Alec Kostelnik is now at IUPUI, so Savage, a semistate qualifier, assumes the top spot for Morgan, which should be in the PCC mix. "We'll be solid up front," coach Mike Grennes said. "Depth is always an issue."
Runners to watch: Bryan Flannery, So.; Noah Matthys, Jr.; Lucas Cauley, So.; Damon DeWitt, Jr.; Wyatt Dittmar, So.
Outlook: Flannery will lead the way, followed by Cauley and Matthys with a well-bunched four through seven that could also include freshman Odin Bules and first-year junior Austin Howell. "I think the boys are going to surprise some people just because we finally have some numbers," coach Rachel Werner said.
Runners to watch: Michael Phillis, So.; Noah Masson, So.
Outlook: The Senators have a freshman and six sophomores on a roster of eight. "They all compete. They all want to push each other," coach Angela Kneifel-Mendenhall said. "When the kids are saying, 'Hey, can we run more?' those are the kind of things you want hear."
Runners to watch: Devin Barber, Jr.; Davis Popp, So.; Bryan Walker, So.
Outlook: The bulk of the team is back, save for No. 1 runner Jake Lindy, who moved to Hobart. "It's basically the same group, so I'm hoping they can improve on what they did," coach Alex Tomscheck said. "We should be pretty competitive in most meets."
Runners to watch: Marvin Rea Jr., So.; Charles Hurt, Jr.; Joseph Mims, Sr.; Jordan Grady, Sr.; Aaron Rivera, Sr.
Outlook: New coach Myles Tolliver, a 2008 Portage grad, adds his expertise as a former state medalist in the 300 hurdles and a three-time state qualifier on the Indians' 3,200 relay.
Runners to watch: Alex Figueroa, Sr.; Justin Gomez, So.; Cortez Walters, Jr.
Outlook: Coach Frank Porras also is sharing three runners with the soccer team and has a few more who still have to take physicals.
Runners to watch: Jace Horner, Sr.; Beau Balch, So.; Jacob Hall, Fr.; Nathan Baize, Sr.; Anthony Alsman, Jr.
Outlook: Numbers are down and it didn't help that No. 1 runner Alsman suffered a stress fracture and must wear a boot for a month.
-- compiled by Al Hamnik and Jim Peters